Friday, August 1, 2008

Green Friday--Composting

We’ve composted for years, but it was only recently that I learned (from my kids, who learned it at the environment club at their school) that composting has a major benefit besides reducing the mass of garbage going to landfills and producing wonderful stuff for your garden. As produce and yard waste decomposes in landfills, it gives off methane, a major greenhouse gas. But because composting involves a different decomposition process, no methane is produced.

Some people don’t want to compost because they think it’s stinky, but a smelly compost pile just means that the balance of materials is off. We keep an old garbage can full of dry leaves, dead flowers, old potting soil, and other “brown” materials next to our compost bin and every time we empty the kitchen compost pail, we add approximately the same amount of brown stuff on top. No smell at all.

If you can’t or don’t want to have a composter in your yard, consider vermiculture, or worm composting. We did this when we were living in a rental house. It was easy, fun for the kids (and educational), and helped us keep at least some of our garbage out of the landfill.

I used to be kind of squeamish about worms—due in large part to some boys who lived on our street when I was kid, who liked to chop them up—until I started gardening and realized just how important they are. But worm composting is not at all gross and you won’t end up with worms all over the place (unlike the time I dropped a full container of live crickets in my kitchen when we were frog-sitting for friends).

There are many resources available to learn about composting, and your community, like mine, might offer workshops. Some towns even subsidize the cost of backyard composters or offer them free to residents. Environment Canada and the Composting Council of Canada both have information to help you get started.


Margerie said...

I have thought about composting for a long time. We have the room outside. But I am wondering if our dogs will try to mess it up. They love stinky......

I will check out your links and see if any of the backyard composter set ups will work for us.

Thanks Ms. Green Griday!

Susan said...

Margerie, we have lots of dogs running free in our neighborhood and they've never been interested in our compost. I think if you don't put meat or cooked food in it (which you shouldn't anyway), it would be okay.

Once in a while the raccoons raid it, but they're very tidy. Last year the bears did go into it once (and then stood at my office window, eating lettuce and looking in at us), so we're more careful about adding brown material now.